Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Escape Artists” – Erin’s writeup
Six singers/bands are hidden in longer entries, with song titles as hints to their identities. Underneath each artist is an entry containing RUN:
- 22a. [Rats (“Schism”)] STOOL PIGEONS, with TOOL hidden in the circled squares, found over…
- 26a. [Unhurriedly move (along)] TRUNDLE
- 34a. [Purple-colored coleslaw ingredient, despite its name (“Dancing Queen”)] RED CABBAGE, found over…
- 41a. [Eliminated the excess from, as topiarists do] PRUNED
- 59a. [Robbie ___, alter ego of Ghost Rider (“Roundabout”)] REYES, found over…
- 65a. [Try to contact after tanking up?] DRUNK DIAL
- 75a. [Hit 1987 song by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (“Africa”)] HEAD TO TOE, found over…
- 83a. [Ones with bigger puppy siblings, say] RUNTS
- 100a. [Libyan expanse (“Take On Me”)] SAHARA, found over…
- 106a. [Muscleman’s title] MR UNIVERSE
- 117a. [Extensive campaign (“Smooth Operator”)] CRUSADE, found over…
- 122a. [Smash hit by Wings, or a feature found six times in this puzzle] BAND ON THE RUN)
But wait, there’s more! Evan has left us a note. “BONUS: The first letters of 12 clues in this puzzle spell out the name of a noted Escape artist.” The correct answer comes from the first letters of the above clues, which spell out not an escape artist, but “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” artist RUPERT HOLMES. The main concept is clever, and spelling out a name in the clues is icing on the cake. Speaking of cake, anyone want a piece? We have some left over from my son’s first birthday party.
- 49a. [Unusual ordinal] DOZENTH. Did not know this was a word. Do not plan on using it ever.
- 74a. [Bill promoting science] NYE. Nice misdirect here, and very timely, as he just filed a lawsuit against Disney claiming they have withheld $28 million in profits from the show’s owners.
- 123d. [Happy co-worker?] DOC, as well as the other five of the Seven Dwarfs.
- 92d. [Long-snouted swimmer] GAR. The other long three-letter crossword fish!
Until next week!
Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Location, Location, Location”—Amy’s write-up
It took me a while to grasp how exactly the theme worked here. You’ve got pairs with one straightforwardly clued answer and one nearby cross-referenced answer that mentions X-Across, where that X number is a clue number in the midst of the first answer. So 22a is a straight-up CINDERELLA STORY, and 23d starts at the second L so there’s a square 23 within 22a. Two rows closer to the center, there’s 29a. [23-Across, literally?] as the clue for LAST PLACE. Now, initially I saw that sham 23-Across as LASTORY, or the movie L.A. Story, but no, it’s just part of that chunk, just the LAST part. So sham 23a is the place where LAST is, or LAST PLACE. Crystal clear explanation, yes?
Here are the other themers:
- 106a. [118-Across, literally?], CANAL ZONE.
- 116a. [Detective in a lab], FORENSIC ANALYST, with the C ANAL portion starting at square 118a, as cited in 106a’s clue.
- 14d. [New Hampshire], THE GRANITE STATE. There are options for 60d TESTATE, 66d ESTATE, and 72d STATE here. The latter two would use the whole post-numbered-square chunk rather than just a part of it.
- 55d. [60-Down, literally?], TEST SITE.
- 42d. [Contributed to the world], MADE A DIFFERENCE.
- 43d. [56-Down, literally?], DEAD SPOT. As in a cell-phone signal dead spot.
Note that the x-reffed answers are all location-oriented—PLACE, ZONE, SITE, SPOT. Clever theme.
What else is in this puzzle? I forget. I solved it two hours ago and it’s no longer fresh in my head. Things I see in the fill and like: IN-AND-OUT, POP ROCKS, ILL-FATED, HOT MIC, LAERTES, GOES DEEP, and 95d. FUN FACT [That the sum of the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666, e.g.].
Clues of note:
- 79a. [Disaster film?], OIL SLICK. This is not, however, the name of the movie about the Deepwater Horizon oil leak.
- 100a. [Location of Waimea Valley], OAHU. I was sure this was an error and that’s in Maui … but it turns out it’s Wailea that’s in Maui.
- 93d. [Asked for a desk, say], ANAGRAM. We don’t usually see a mix of a two-word phrase and a single word in our ANAGRAM clues, do we?
4.4 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Anap Judgment” — pannonica’s write-up
Multi-part quippy theme, courtesy 30-across MITCH HEDBERG, the late stand-up comedian.
- ONE TIME | A GUY HANDED ME A | PICTURE. HE SAID HERE IS A | PICTURE OF ME | WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. EVERY | PICTURE OF YOU | IS WHEN YOU WERE | YOUNGER. 22a/23a/48a/67a/85a/102a/113a/118a
Time’s arrow, et cetera. This quip relies on the same kind of absolutism as another famous one-liner of his that I found: “”I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.”
- 55a/99a [Camping necessity] ROPE, TENT. Less essential, depending: 21a [Tool for K2] ICE AXE. Oh, let’s put this here too: 58a [Survivalist Stroud] LES.
- But uh-oh: 122a [Les Claypool’s band] PRIMUS. nb: I won’t be embedding a Primus or Oysterhead track in this Sunday morning write-up. Not really morning music.
- Instead, let’s go here: 19a [Befitting a beau] LOVERLY.
- Conversely, not a duplication but the repetition is notable in these sequential clues/entries: 125a [Come to pass] ENSUE, 126a [Large numbers] PASSELS. (See also the crossing 84d [Big number] GREAT DEAL.
- 82a [“Well, fudge”] DANG, 112a [Darn, as socks] MEND. Phew.
- 62a [Deli selections] MEATS, 117d [Low-fat meat] EMU. Damn.
- 95a [Gastro-pub reading] MENU. I have yet to break the habit of thinking of gastropods when I see this term.
- 11d [Sound of a Morse dash] DAH. Reminder: ‘dots’ and ‘dashes’ = ‘dits’ and ‘dahs’. One of the first things we learned in Mr Skloot’s 8th grade science class, for which all students also got their ham radio licenses.
- 78d [Trump press secretary Spicer] SEAN. That clue is so six weeks ago. 101d [Like Indian food] SPICY. Um.
- Kind of weird: with ––EG in place, I guessed on 25a [Gutfeld of Fox] as OLEG rather than the more common GREG.
- 26d [Prefix meaning “chest”] STETHO-, 88d [Bone (pref.)] OSTE-. That’s it, you’re cut off.
- Some stacked long downs: TONGUE-TIE / OVERREACT, NEWS ANGLE / GREAT DEAL.
- Among my favorites, for disparate reasons: 37a [Cold open?] CEE, 43a [[See other side] (abbr.)] CONT’D, 72a [All in favor of] PRO, 118d [Toy’s squeak] YIP. 77a [Mosaic tiles] TESSERAE, 10d [You can’t find anything here] STY, 46d [Pickup artist?] THIEF.
Pleasant Sunday diversion, this one.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Special Ops”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is “add OP to a familiar phrase, clue new goofy phrase accordingly”:
- 27a. [Like soup cans to Andy Warhol?], PERFECT FOR THE POP ART. Perfect for the part.
- 45a. [The musical “1776” reworked with arias?], COLONIAL OPERA. Colonial Era.
- 55a. [Astaire/Rogers 1935 boast?], “I MADE TOP HAT.” “I made that.”
- 67a. [Pace of a runaway horse?], UNMITIGATED GALLOP. Gall. I like this one best. Not enough things are described as unmitigated.
- 83a. [Why the kennel closed?], NO PET PROFIT. Net profit. Boring with or without the OP.
- 92a. [Vespa newbies?], MOPED STUDENTS. Med students.
- 112a. [#1 rodeo competitor?], THE LORD OF THE ROPINGS. The Lord of the Rings. You might think I don’t encounter a lot of rodeo action here in Chicago, but each summer when the Illinois Gay Rodeo is going on, Boystown gets plenty of guys in cowboy hats. (Yesterday’s cowboys were just country music fans heading to the Zac Brown Band show at Wrigley Field. Country concerts at Wrigley and the gay rodeo, those are the two times that cowboy hats proliferate on the North Side.)
Overall, this puzzle felt stodgy to me. Lots of unfresh fill, like DLI USAIR NITER TABU ESO OTIOSE. Some bright spots, like GEARHEAD. Contrived awkwardness like “I GOT A DEAL.” Nothing particularly memorable for me here.
122a is a mild blot on the theme, OPEC with an OP that wasn’t added to create a theme answer. This corner has the last theme answer crossing it, but there’s nothing I’d have missed if it were tweaked to remove OPEC. I mean, OTIOSE, two UPs in the ROLL UP/BLOT UP crossing, a TEN PIN, ENTS, UTERI …
2.5 stars from me.
Catching up on this week’s puzzles and wanted to make two quick comments: is HARRY HOUDINI in the Thursday puzzle officially the longest unchecked answer in the Shortz era? And did anyone wonder, like me, if the symmetrical ORALphase and ANALgesic in Saturday’s were intentional..?
I too wondered about the ORAL- ANAL bit, but I’m thinking maybe it was subconscious :)
The HARRY HOUDINI letters are checked, since the downs are different words with and without those letters.
Yes, each Down answer is a word regardless of whether HARRY HOUDINI is there or not. However, if you’ve never heard of the name (or, more likely, not sure how to spell it), then there’s no way for you to use the Downs to check.
Cross-checking doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to use a crossing entry to get a letter. One solver’s check is another’s Natick.
Realizing that the downs must be words with the long across filled greatly constrains the possible letters. Yes, if you’ve never heard of Harry Houdini, it’s a giant Natick. (HARRY HOUDICI?) But if you have, the downs confirm it’s correct. I think that conforms to the spirit of cross-checking.
I still have Harry Houdini in my head (not escaped) so I assumed that he was the WP’s bonus too. I couldn’t easily find it so I gave up. I like Rupert Holmes better here.
Once again, I failed to see the trick in the WaPo — I didn’t notice RUN under all the band names — “band” on the RUN, clever, huh? I don’t know whether it’s because I don’t have any practice with metas or because I have some sort of mental block that stops me from seeing these things, but I hardly ever manage to figure them out.
The cross-referencing in NYT made it a bit of a drag to solve, I thought, and the explanation for the linked answers seemed unsatisfying. The puzzle had a lot of proper names but that was actually helpful, since I knew most of them.
The clue for 77A POSITRON, “Antiparticle first observed in 1929,” illustrates the dangers of Wikipedia. The discovery date for the positron was 1932, Carl Anderson at Caltech. It then turned out other people had seen signs of it in earlier experimental observations, but either dismissed them as errors or didn’t pursue them. Apparently (per Wikipedia, via a book by Frank Close) there was a Russian scientist who presented photographic evidence in 1929 of what was later identified as a positron. To my mind, that makes a dubious case for the clue here, in particular because who knows who else might have seen evidence for the positron earlier, but didn’t know what to do with it?
I think the constructor may have been making the distinction between “observed” (where one might not know exactly what was seen, but which turned out later to be the positron) and “discovered”.
I loved both NYT and WaPo. I find it easier to solve on paper; I can more easily track free-ranging cross-referenced themes, and I feel that I am better able to see associations like “run”. Although, after giving the idea a little thought, it might be possible for those associations to stand out better on a computer screen.
It seems a bit harsh to “blame” this on Wikipedia. Even Anderson admitted that Chao had a positron observation in 1929, but that the significance was not recognized. I think the clue is consistent with the facts.
I had a PET scan a while back. I find it totally incredible that we use antimatter every day for medical imaging.
From the description at your link, I don’t think it can be said that Chao had a positron observation, or that Anderson said that he had.
It’s a philosophical question, I guess. If someone sees an experimental result but doesn’t understand until later what it is, does that count as an observation?
Seems semantic rather than philosophical. Then again, semantics is a philosophical discipline.
The number of theme answers in the NYT seems low to me.
Erin, your son is a cutie! Happy Birthday!
The WaPo was a feat of construction. Having those RUNs in the right places without compromising the fill, and the misdirection in the meta, made it a joy to solve.
I have trouble pronouncing DOZENTH correctly :)
NYT: I knew it would be a fun solve when I saw the Jeff Chen byline, and I was not disappointed! I love sussing out cross-referenced answers. Thanks for the fun!
Thank you, Lise! It’s amazing that an entire year has flown by.
Needed this post to even make out what was going on with NYT; just finished it blind, aided by the vague sense that the first letters of the cross-referenced entries matched the shams (which, in fairness, weren’t really shams in that the number would have been needed for a cross anyway). I do these using the app on my phone & wasn’t bothered by the cross-referencing, perhaps due to the proximity.